2020-21 Appeal Statistics

Tuesday 07 December

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) today published statistics for its Appeals Service for the 2020-21 academic year.

The key findings are:

Of the 519,429 entries in 2020–21, there were 3,483 requests either for an appeal on the grounds of academic judgement, unresolved administrative error or discrimination. This can be further refined as:

More than ninety three percent (93.7%) of all requests were for academic judgement. A smaller number of requests were for unresolved administrative errors (0.9%) and, discrimination (5.4%).

Today's published data shows that across the three available grounds, 1.6% resulted in a grade change (57 of 3,483 requests) - 44 upgrades and 13 downgrades. There are 15 appeals on the grounds of discrimination still under consideration, which are not included in these figures.

In 2021, for the first time, learners could appeal directly to SQA for free and were able to register that they wanted to appeal from Friday 25 June. Appeals were processed with the support of schools, colleges and training providers after learners received their results in August.

As there were no standardised assessments in 2021, the appeals process required a different approach. Any evidence supplied in support of an appeal request was considered closely by SQA appointees – practising teachers and lecturers – who reviewed materials against the broad assessment requirements of the course.

The starting point for the review was that the judgements of schools, colleges, and training providers were fair and within acceptable tolerances – only if the appointee discerned a significant and material difference was a change in grade recommended.

Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, and Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer, said: “This was another very challenging year for the whole Scottish education system, who together with learners, parents and carers, worked hard to ensure the Alternative Certification Model was credible and fair and enabled learners to receive the qualifications they deserved.

“The vast majority of learners did not appeal their grades this year.  However, it was important that a free, direct right of appeal was made available to learners as the final essential part of the alternative certification model. This was a major change from previous years and a direct response to the national consultation we conducted.

Subject summaries

English

In 2020–21, requests for an appeal on the grounds of academic judgement totalled 656 across all entries in English at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher), resulting in two upgrades (0.3% of English appeal requests) and zero downgrades.

Requests for an appeal on the grounds of an unresolved administrative error or discrimination totalled 34 across all entries in English at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, with five of these being approved for the grounds. Of these, two resulted in an upgrade and three are still in progress.

Mathematics

Requests for an appeal on the grounds of academic judgement totalled 578 across all entries in Mathematics entries at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, resulting in three upgrades (0.5% of Mathematics appeal requests) and zero downgrades.

Requests for an appeal on the grounds of an unresolved administrative error or discrimination totalled 43 across all entries in Mathematics at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher), with seven of these being approved for the grounds. Of these, two resulted in an upgrade, one resulted in no change of grade. Four are still in progress.